Georgina Guedes

Why no Wi-Fi?

2013-06-25 14:59

Georgina Guedes

A friend of mine recently went on a business trip to Cape Town, and was booked into a hotel by her client. When she arrived, she was very surprised to discover that her hotel didn't offer Wi-Fi.

She tweeted about it, I retweeted her - because really, not offering Wi-Fi in a hotel is really one of the seven deadly sins of hospitality, isn't it? Guests expect hotels to functions as their homes away from home. Respectable establishments should provide all of the necessities and most of the luxuries and a little more besides for their guests. And Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury.

Conference centres

My friend's hotel story struck a chord with me, because I was recently asked to cover an event that was held at Dimension Data’s conference venue in Bryanston - The Forum. This venue is proud to offer state-of-the art video conferencing technology and whatever, but you have to pay to use the Wi-Fi.

And the process of tracking down a Wi-Fi menu, to work out the costs and to pay for access with a credit card was a convoluted one. Eventually, a manager came to my aid and did arrange me free Wi-Fi, but the fact that this isn't offered as a matter of course in a business conference venue is surprising to me.

South Africa still hasn't caught up with the Western (and much of the Eastern) world when it comes to the provision of Wi-Fi services. When my husband and I were travelling in Hong Kong, many years ago, we searched for an internet café to update our friends back home. We couldn't find one. The reason? The whole city is a Wi-Fi hotspot. Nobody needed to use internet cafes.

Coffee and Wi-Fi

Closer to home, many restaurants and coffee shops now offer Wi-Fi as an enticement to customers. And they're starting to get the hang of the fact that this should be an unconditional offer - no minimum food bill, no secret password card, no time limit - just free Wi-Fi if you're sitting in their shop, ordering their beverages.

The thing is, Wi-Fi doesn't cost much anymore - not in the greater scheme of things. And in a city where mobile professionals would rather be in a coffee shop than an office, or where any number of poor service providers force individuals out into the street searching for a hotspot from which they can carry on working, offering Wi-Fi, friendly-like, is the best way to ensure their custom.

Restaurants, conference venues and hotels need to start seeing Wi-Fi as a necessary investment. They must stop trying to calculate the direct return on investment that can be realised by (over)charging people for a password, and instead look at the less tangible but generally better returns delivered by pleasing a customer by giving her what she needs and wants.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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